How much do you wish you had that block back from the first play against Wisconsin that resulted in a penalty?
That was probably the dumbest play I’ve ever made in football. I shouldn’t have blocked him. I didn’t know it was a rule. You can’t cut (block) coming back.
Are you pleased with the offensive production in Big Ten play?
We’re scoring points. It’s great to put up 32 points on Wisconsin, but it wasn’t good enough to win the game, so it doesn’t matter.
How would you assess the season at the halfway point in the schedule?
Well, we’re 3-3. I don’t think many people pegged us to be 3-3, and we have six Big Ten games left. The Big Ten is wide open. Watching all the games so far in the season, whoever shows up to play any given Saturday in the Big Ten has a shot to win. I think we’re doing all right. It seems like it’s been a longer season than only six games since we’ve had the two bye weeks. The last two games have been a little frustrating, but we’re taking it week to week.
Is it frustrating watching some of the defensive struggles the team has had?
I don’t even watch the defense. I control 1/11th of the offense, so that’s what I’m worried about during the game. Every time we go on the field, I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got to go score some points.’
When a play call comes in for a screen pass to Josh Ferguson, do your eyes light up knowing you get to go downfield and block?
You’re more open in space and maybe more people are looking at you, so it’s a chance to make a big play. I think Coach Cubit calls screens at very good times to the point that they’re usually wide open if we get our blocks. I usually get excited for a screen.
Why’d you come to Illinois?
I came here because my family is a Big Ten family. I only got two offers in the Big Ten, and it was Indiana and Illinois. Talking with Coach Zook when he recruited me, he said some things when I was up in his office that really resonated with me, and I just committed on the spot.
What’s with the beard?
I didn’t think I could do it, so I tried it out. It’s working out for me.
Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck?
I’m more of a Peyton Manning fan. I like the way he approaches the game. I think he’s the best. I don’t know how you would prepare for him, and I think it would be awesome/nerve-racking to be one of his linemen. That’s Peyton Manning back there. We were watching some NFL film the other day, and a guard almost stepped on Peyton’s foot. We were joking around that if he actually stepped on it, he would be cut the next day.
What’d you think of the Colts-Broncos game last Sunday night in Indianapolis?
Lucas Oil Stadium was rocking. I wish I could have been there. I’ve seen a couple Colts games there, but they got after it. The Colts’ defense got after it, and it was cool to see (former Illinois offensive lineman) Hugh (Thornton) out there. He looks humongous. That’s good to see an Illini out there.
When you hurt your ankle the day after Camp Rantoul ended, were you worried you might miss more than the one game you did?
I didn’t even want to miss that game (against Southern Illinois). Yeah, there was some worry because we had to go get an MRI. That scared me a little bit. I thought as I was sitting in the MRI, I didn’t really care if it was worse than it was. I wasn’t going to miss playing Cincinnati here. I could live with not playing against Southern Illinois, I guess, but it was hard. I had never missed a game of football in my life. I told the guys whatever I had to do to get ready to go to play Cincinnati, I would.
How close are you and your fellow offensive linemen?
The O-line is always probably the best on the team with that kind of stuff, and this year especially. We’ve been playing the same spots since spring ball. Everyone’s kind of around the same age. We’ve really come together, and it’s a special bond.
How nice is it knowing that four of the five starters on the offensive line will return next season?
It’s huge, especially on the O-line with continuity. It’s just things you say on the line. Maybe on a play that we’ve repped all week, all I have to say is a little word or two, and (center) Alex (Hill) knows that he’s working with me. It’s little things like that.
Who does better with the ladies on campus: offensive linemen or skill position players?
I’d say offensive linemen. We’ve got GQ in Simon Cvijanovic at left tackle. The bookends at the tackle spot, with Corey Lewis at right tackle, both do a pretty decent job. All three of the inside guys have a solid girlfriend. Alex is getting married, so I think it’s a different approach to it, but we handle ourselves OK.
Did you feel pressure in high school to live up to the family name?
Yeah, especially more before I knew I could do it. Before I started playing varsity as a sophomore, I didn’t know. I was 6-1 and 225 (pounds) as a sophomore, and then junior year, I’m 6-4, 280, so I felt, ‘Yeah, I could do this.’ There was definitely some pressure, but no pressure as far as what school to pick, though. Everyone just wanted to see me play and ball.
How would you assess your great uncle’s acting?
I thought he did a great job. He made a whole career of it. He hosted “Saturday Night Live” twice. “Webster” was a hit TV show, and “Blazing Saddles” is a classic. He did very well for himself.
How many times have you seen “Blazing Saddles”?
About four or five times. My mom didn’t really want me to watch it as a kid, but in eighth grade I got to watch it for the first time. A lot of people pointed out to me that he was in the movie when I was younger. I knew he was in it, but I didn’t realize the significance of the character and how famous the movie was.
Is acting in your future?
It’d be great if I could get a shot. I don’t know how I’d do, though. I’ve never done it before, but it seems fun.
Scooters are popular modes of transportation for you and your teammates. Do you ever get weird looks when people see offensive linemen on them?
I’d rather have a motorcycle, maybe a Harley, rather than a scooter. One time before camp, when we were shipping out to Rantoul after the week we had at the Hawthorn Suites, me and (left guard Michael) Heitz both had all our bags on us, and we were both on his scooter. We were riding down First Street and noticed that the car in front of us was filming us because it looked so weird because there was about 800 pounds on a scooter.
Who’s your dream date?
A night on the town with Jennifer Aniston or seven pancake blocks and a win against Michigan State?
Seven pancakes and a win. In high school, that was kind of expected. You get seven pancakes in a game, that’s a very good game, especially in college football.